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Gov't ordered to pay over P3M workers arrears

MPHO MOKWAPE
Lobatse High Court PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Government has been ordered to pay Ministry of Agriculture Development and Food Security employees over P3million following a failed promotions and progressions on time.

The ministry workers had taken government to court complaining, amongst other things, of salary arrears, scarce skills allowance arrears, leave days and overtime allowance arrears.

Lobatse High Court judges, Reuben Lekorwe and Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe handed the judgements on June 30, 2020 and June 19, 2020 respectively as the workers were in two groups and had appeared separately before the judges seeking the same reliefs.

Seven employees had appeared  before Ketlogetswe arguing that the ministry had failed to backdate their promotions and progressions and in so doing that had violated their labour rights.

They also sought to have the ministry pay their arrears in respect to salaries, scarce skills allowance, overtime allowance and leave days while in Judge Lekorwe 11 employees appeared seeking the same reliefs.

In Justice Lekorwe’s judgement the State was ordered to pay the workers the sum of P1, 376, 650 with 15% representing their salary arrears, 40% scarce allowance arrears, 15% overtime allowance and leave days’ arrears respectively.

He also ordered that thereon a rate of 10% per annum from the correct date of promotion/progression and the cost of the suit be added.

Judge Lekorwe said the ministry, in delaying in the promotions in the manner they did , breached employees’ contracts of employment or better still, breached directive No. 6, which binds them.

“The directive was clear and the plaintiffs are entitled to the reliefs they are seeking. The issue of unavailability of either posts, or funds is just a blatant stratagem by the defendants to avoid consequences of their tardiness,” he said.

Judge Lekorwe explained that the directive revealed that not only government curtailed the period within which an employee was to be considered for progression/promotion, but also obviated the need

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for periodic requisition of posts and funds.

He said it seemed to have been the position that  all along was held by the higher echelons of public service as evidenced by other cases that came before court.      

In Judge Ketlogetswe’s judgements, the government was ordered to pay P2, 270, 000, as presented of the same arrears in Judge Lekorwe.

They were also ordered to have complied by the order within 60 days of the judgement. 

In his reasons, Ketlogetswe said the plaintiffs were asking the court to hold that they were entitled to be treated equitably and similarly as the other employees who had already been paid without demur.  

“The conclusion I have arrived at is that the plaintiffs are entitled to the reliefs they seek in their entirety,” he said.

He explained that in so far as the other employees similarly circumstanced as themselves have been paid their arrears, salaries and other arrear benefits and that also on the principle of parity of treatment the plaintiffs were entitled to be paid.

The judge pointed out that the State’s defence argument seemed to be that payments to others were made after the decision in the Moeti Temano case.

He further said what was important was whether or not the decision to agree to pay other employees was made in spite of existence of the decision of Temano, noting that the agreement to pay the other employees was made a year after the decision.

“I do not think it can reasonably be argued that decisions can have, if at all, different interpretational outcomes in relation to persons similarly circumstanced. The defendants’ argument in this regard is therefore without merit and it is rejected,” he said.



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